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Happy Thesaurus Day!

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Forget weight loss and penny-pinching, make a resolution to keep this year a little more unconventional. What better way to start than with a few offbeat holidays and anniversaries you can easily observe?

1. January 1: First Foot Day

A Scottish New Year tradition, the first person to step into someone’s home is called the “first-footer” and is thought to represent good fortune entering the household—in the form of gifts including coal, whiskey, cash, and/or cheese and bread. Sorry ladies and blond men—in order to be considered lucky the first-footer should always be a dark-haired man.

2. January 1: 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

On this date in 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed this famous document proclaiming to the Executive Branch of government that all enslaved in Confederate territory were now free.

3. January 3: Fruitcake Toss Day

Although it may sound like a culinary Olympic event, Fruitcake Toss Day just marks the time when it is finally socially acceptable to trash all of the holiday fruitcakes you received. If you choose to turn the event into a throwing contest, make sure to have paper towels handy.

4. January 4: National Trivia Day

Here’s how we celebrated last year: 119 Amazing Facts for National Trivia Day.

5. January 4: World Braille Day

The birthday of Frenchman William Louis Braille, after whom this tactile code is named, doubles as a celebration of his groundbreaking system which has provided greater equal opportunities for the visually impaired worldwide since its invention in 1824.

6. January 7: 225th Anniversary of the First U.S. Presidential Election

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In 1788, new nation and future world power the United States of America kicked off its very first Presidential election (which ended in January 1789). As a surprise to no one, except perhaps opponents John Adams and John Jay, George Washington took the race in a landslide.

7. January 8: Bubble Bath Day

If ever there were a day to relax in a bath full of aerated water or foam, today is the one. Once a thing of luxury, the effervescent bath became a kid-friendly—and more affordable—treat in the mid-20th century thanks to companies like Mr. Bubbles.

8. January 10: League of Nations Day

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The rather ill-fated predecessor to the United Nations, the international peacekeeping organization League of Nations formally came to be on this date in 1920. Though the vocal support of President Woodrow Wilson certainly helped its inception, the League quickly fell into disarray, leaving it virtually powerless to prevent World War II. In 1946, Woodrow Wilson’s dream was officially dissolved.

9. January 10: 150th Anniversary of the Underground Railway

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The London Underground, a.k.a. “the Tube,” a.k.a. the transit system formerly known as the Metropolitan Railway, opened its doors in 1863, making it the first underground railway—or subway—in the world.

10. January 17: Kid Inventors Day

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The Kid Inventors Day website attributes television, water skis, earmuffs and the Popsicle to the minds of brilliant minors. Technically, the man who invented the first working television, Philo Farnsworth, applied for the patent at age 21 in 1927, but he showed an early design for his TV to his teacher at age 14. The purpose of Kid Inventors Day is to celebrate and encourage the ingenuity of children—so the Farnsworth blueprint counts!

11. January 18: Thesaurus Day

On this day in 1779, British lexicographer Peter Mark Roget was born. He is most famous for publishing The Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (aka “Roget’s Thesaurus”) in 1852. This holiday is a day to honor, celebrate, extol, laud, praise, revere, or salute his contributions.

12. January 22: National Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day

If animals could talk, what would they say? We may never know the real answer, but January 22nd is a day to remember the thoughts and feelings of your domestic feline. Don’t worry if cat whispering isn’t your forte. Cat-oriented websites like Cat Channel offer some great icebreakers to get the conversation started. For example, “Are hairballs a common malady? What can my human do to prevent them?”

13. January 23: 56th Anniversary of the Frisbee

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After fighting in World War II, American inventor Walter Frederick Morrison returned to the States and designed what he thought would be the world’s first flying disc. After a few iterations over the course of nearly a decade, he came up with his design for the “Pluto Platter.” On this date in 1957, he sold his rights to this design to the Wham-O toy company. Later that year, Wham-O decided to rename the toy “Frisbee,” a term that came from a Connecticut pie company named Frisbie, whose empty pie tins had become ad-hoc toys.

Wham-O owns the trademark to the term “Frisbee,” so any flying disc from any other manufacturer is technically not a Frisbee.

14. January 24: Beer Can Appreciation Day

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Seventy-eight years ago to the day, the first beer was sold in cans. Since then, the beer can has become a barbecue staple, a collector’s item, and a maligned receptacle for some beer snobs. Today, pause before chugging, shotgunning, or crushing, and take a moment to reflect on what your beer can means to you.

15. January 28: National Kazoo Day

Founded by Chaplin Willard Rahn of the Joyful Kazoo Band, National Kazoo Day celebrates 162 years of this plastic or metal instrument. The organization behind the holiday, Kazoo America, hopes to one day make the kazoo “America’s official musical instrument.” They ask that you please remember the kazoo is definitely not related to the Vuvuzela.

16. January 29: Thomas Paine Day

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Thomas Paine, who was born 276 years ago on this date, became a highly influential figure preceding the American Revolution with the publishing of his Common Sense pamphlets in the colonies. After publishing another series called The American Crisis, and a little war known as the American Revolution, Paine actually returned to live in London. His revolutionary spirit could not be quelled though, and he got back into the action, this time in France. After ruffling some feathers and facing possible execution—pardon our sweeping generalization of history here—Paine returned to the United States to live out his final days.

While we don’t recommend a complete governmental overthrow, today why not honor the spirit of Paine by starting a tiny revolution of your own?

17. January 30: FDR’s 131st Birthday

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Credited by many for pulling the United States out of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt left an indelible impression on American history. He also holds the distinction of being the only American President ever to be elected four times. So celebrate!

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Big Questions
What Happened to the Physical Copy of the 'I Have a Dream' Speech?
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AFP, Getty Images

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech for the ages, delivering the oratorical masterpiece "I Have a Dream" to nearly 250,000 people.

When he was done, King stepped away from the podium, folded his speech, and found himself standing in front of George Raveling, a former Villanova basketball player who, along with his friend Warren Wilson, had been asked to provide extra security around Dr. King while he was speaking. "We were both tall, gangly guys," Raveling told TIME in 2003. "We didn't know what we were doing but we certainly made for a good appearance."

Moved by the speech, Raveling saw the folded papers in King’s hands and asked if he could have them. King gave the young volunteer the speech without hesitation, and that was that.

“At no time do I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we got this historic document,’” Raveling told Sports Illustrated in 2015. Not realizing he was holding what would become an important piece of history in his hands, Raveling went home and stuck the three sheets of paper into a Harry Truman biography for safekeeping. They sat there for nearly two decades while Raveling developed an impressive career coaching NCAA men’s basketball.

In 1984, he had recently taken over as the head coach at the University of Iowa and was chatting with Bob Denney of the Cedar Rapids Gazette when Denney brought up the March on Washington. That's when Raveling dropped the bomb: “You know, I’ve got a copy of that speech," he said, and dug it out of the Truman book. After writing an article about Raveling's connection, the reporter had the speech professionally framed for the coach.

Though he displayed the framed speech in his house for a few years, Raveling began to realize the value of the piece and moved it to a bank vault in Los Angeles. Though he has received offers for King’s speech—one collector wanted to purchase the speech for $3 million in 2014—Raveling has turned them all down. He has been in talks with various museums and universities and hopes to put the speech on display in the future, but for now, he cherishes having it in his possession.

“That to me is something I’ll always be able to look back and say I was there,” Raveling said in the original Cedar Rapids Gazette article. “And not only out there in that arena of people, but to be within touching distance of him. That’s like when you’re 80 or 90 years old you can look back and say ‘I was in touching distance of Abraham Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Address.’"

“I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech,” Raveling, now CEO of Coaching for Success, has said. “But I’m sure glad that I did.”

Live Smarter
3 Reasons Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail—and How to Fix Them

You don’t need a special day to come up with goals, but New Year’s Day is as good a time as any to build better habits. The problem is, by the time February rolls around, our best laid plans have often gone awry. Don’t let it happen this year: Heed these three simple tips for fail-proof resolutions.


Let’s say your goal is to pay off $5000 worth of credit card debt this year. Since you're giving yourself a long timeframe (all year) to pay it down, you end up procrastinating or splurging, telling yourself you’ll make up for it later. But the longer you push it off, the bigger and more overwhelming your once-reasonable goal can feel.

Solution: Set Smaller Milestones

The big picture is important, but connecting your goal to the present makes it more digestible and easier to stick with. Instead of vowing to pay off $5000 by the end of next December, make it your resolution to put $96 toward your credit card debt every week, for example.

In a study from the University of Wollongong, researchers asked subjects to save using one of two methods: a linear model and a cyclical model. In the linear model, the researchers told subjects that saving for the future was important and asked them to set aside money accordingly. In contrast, they told the cyclical group:

This approach acknowledges that one’s life consists of many small and large cycles, that is, events that repeat themselves. We want you to think of the personal savings task as one part of such a cyclical life. Make your savings task a routinized one: just focus on saving the amount that you want to save now, not next month, not next year. Think about whether you saved enough money during your last paycheck cycle. If you saved as much as you wanted, continue with your persistence. If you did not save enough, make it up this time, with the current paycheck cycle.

When subjects used this cyclical model, focusing on the present, they saved more than subjects who focused on their long-term goal.


“Find a better job” is a worthy goal, but it's a bit amorphous. It's unclear what "better" means to you, and it’s difficult to plot the right course of action when you’re not sure what your desired outcome is. Many resolutions are vague in this way: get in shape, worry less, spend more time with loved ones.

Solution: Make Your Goal a SMART One

To make your goal actionable, it should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. When you set specific parameters and guidelines for your goal, it makes it easier to come up with an action plan. Under a bit more scrutiny, "spend more time with loved ones" might become "invite my best friends over for dinner every other Sunday night." This new goal is specific, measurable, time-bound—it ticks all the boxes and tells you exactly what you want and how to get there.


“A false first step is when we try to buy a better version of ourselves instead of doing the actual work to accomplish it,” Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch tells Mental Floss. “The general idea is that purchasing something like a heart rate monitor can feel a lot like we're taking a step towards our fitness goals,” Ongaro says. “The purchase itself can give us a dopamine release and a feeling of satisfaction, but it hasn't actually accomplished anything other than spending some money on a new gadget.”

Even worse, sometimes that dopamine is enough to lure you away from your goal altogether, Ongaro says. “That feeling of satisfaction that comes with the purchase often is good enough that we don't feel the need to actually go out for a run and use it.”

Solution: Start With What You Already Have

You can avoid this trap by forcing yourself to start your goal with the resources you already have on hand. “Whether the goal is to learn a new language or improve physical fitness, the best way to get started and avoid the false first step is to do the best you can with what you already have,” Ongaro says. “Start really small, even learning one new word per day for 30 days straight, or just taking a quick walk around the block every day.”

This isn’t to say you should never buy anything related to your goal, though. As Ongaro points out, you just want to make sure you’ve already developed the habit a bit first. “Establish a habit and regular practice that will be enhanced by a product you may buy,” he says. “It's likely that you won't even need that gadget or that fancy language learning software once you actually get started ... Basically, don't let buying something be the first step you take towards meaningful change in your life.”


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